On Forgiving Others

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My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.

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ON FORGIVING OTHERS
By Saint Tikhon of Zandosk from "Orthodox Christian Journey

Sometimes in life, we offend each other. This happens because the devil hates love among us, and cleverly ensnares or incites us to offend our neighbor--from our own personal weakness, from carelessness or from habit. Reconciliation is absolutely necessary in order to preserve peace and harmony.

At times, we brush off the offense and go on as if nothing happened. The Holy Bible teaches that when we sin against our neighbor we also sin against God Himself. When love toward our neighbor is destroyed, so too is love toward God and have peace with Him, we must first be reconciled with our neighbor, and then ask God for mercy.

If we approach God in prayer without reconciling with our neighbor, our prayer is vain and empty. The Lord says, "Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee, leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift. Agree with thine adversary quickly, while thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary delivers thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing" (St. Matthew 5:23-26).

Until the peace and love are returned, God will not accept repentance, nor prayers, nor anything else from us. Humbly ask forgiveness without delay, whether the offense is in word or deed.

Death stalks invisibly behind us and seizes us unawares. What will become of us if we are taken without reconciliation? We will appear before the judgment of Christ as we leave this world. What is forgiven now will not appear there. It is important to be reconciled while there is time. If we were able to offend our neighbor, we should also be able to be reconciled without delay. God promises His mercy to all who repent, but He does not promise tomorrow, nor even the next breath.

We must break down the idol of pride and bow down with humility before the offended one. When we bend our knee, we must bow our heart; when we beg forgiveness with our lips, we must beg with our heart. When we repent with our tongue, we must repent and be sorry in our heart. When we kiss each other with the lips, the kiss must come from the heart. For the outward without the inward means nothing. God judges according to the inward disposition.

"Why should I ask forgiveness?" we may ask. "Look who I am!" We all created equal in God's sight. He is just and we shall all stand before Him to be judged. And who is to say who is the better person? The Lord examines the righteous man and the ungodly: "The LORD trieth the righteous: but the wicked and him that loveth violence his soul hateth. Upon the wicked, he shall rain snares, fire, and brimstone, and a horrible temper this shall be the portion of their cup. For the righteous Lord loveth righteousness; his countenance doth behold the upright" (Psalm 11:5).

"Perhaps my neighbor won't accept my apology-- what then?" Humility has such power it touches even the hardest heart. God, the lover of humility; works through the humble. If we humble our heart before our neighbor, we shall see the power of humility as we are embraced with love and joy. If we are unwilling to try, we are responsible for our sin.

"But my neighbor will gloat over my humility."

Saint Luke tells us that everyone who exalts himself will be humbled: For every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted" (St. Luke 18:14). We are not responsible for our neighbors actions. Our responsibility is to obey our Lord.

The offended one must forgive the offended. To be forgiven by God pray with sincerity and hope, Father...forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debts...For if you forgive men their trespasses, your Heavenly Father also will forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses" (St. Matthew 6:12, 14-15).

How terrible it is when we do not forgive our neighbor's trespasses! If we forgive our neighbor, God will also forgive us. If we do not forgive, God will not forgive us. How, then, can we stand before God? And how much is our prayer worth? Almost nothing. For how can we stand before God with anger in our heart? And we must take all the blame, for the sin is ours.

Though we were sinned against, we are all sinners and must forgive. Our neighbor is our debtor and asks forgiveness of God. If forgiveness is from the heart, we can pray from the heart, honestly and openly. If the prayer of forgiveness is not from the heart, it is only words and becomes sin. All wrath and anger must be set aside and forgiveness must be sincere before we can honestly pray, "Father, forgive us..." and forgiveness be granted.

As we treat our neighbor, so also does God treat us. Forgiveness or unforgiveness of our sins, and therefore also our salvation or destruction, depends on each of us, individually. Without forgiveness of sins there is no salvation. We are all sinners equally. Do we know who we are and Who God is, against Whom we have sinned, and sin still? All the world is nothing before God (Isaiah 40). If all the world is as nothing before God, what, then, are we individually, however great our position before others? And what is the sin of our neighbor who offended us? It is as a penny against thousands of pieces of gold or ten thousand talents. Or, even better, it is as nothing against our sins toward God.

If we will not forgive anything, no matter how small, can we hope to receive forgiveness for a great thing? Will we be forgiven by God, Who is eternal justice and incredible majesty? If we do not have mercy on another, what mercy do we expect of GodIt is dangerous not to forgive!  (Source: Orthodox Heritage)

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"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!" -- Saint John Chrysostomos

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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George